Anyone who has been closely involved in social or environmental justice work for a while is likely to have experienced moments of complete overwhelm, even sometimes to the point of hopelessness. It’s very easy to feel like all of your best efforts aren’t amounting to much of anything. It’s during those times that staying grounded is so important.
Part of remaining grounded is viewing your work as an ongoing, evolving practice. Having an activity that connects you to the moment in a tangible, down to earth way helps you stay present in your work. Growing your own food meets this need.
Personal Benefits No Matter the Size of the Garden
Whether you have a plot in a community garden, your own backyard, raised garden beds in an unused lot, containers on your patio, or even a windowsill, growing food is good for you. Even if it’s just a small amount of all that you eat.
Being in contact with soil is great for your mood. Research on the microbe Mycobacterium vaccae shows that it has similar qualities to antidepressant drugs. Gardeners get the microbe into their body through inhalation and touch. It causes production of higher levels of serotonin, which makes you happier and relaxed.
How Your Garden Helps the Community
At the community level, your garden can help provide habitat for wildlife, combat crime, and promote health through the creation or maintenance of green space.
Combined with environmentally sensitive methods of production, when you grow a portion of your food, you can “transform hunger to health and create resilient lives and communities,” according to farmers Ricky Baruc and Deb Habib.
Collective Impact of Gardens
Baruc and Habib have trained nearly 300 teenagers to grow their own food through their Seeds of Leadership Garden. Over its 20 years of operation, participants have donated thousands of pounds of vegetables to low-income families and senior citizens, constructed a 40′ solar greenhouse, and helped plant and tend gardens throughout the community.
The experiences of the participants in the training can have lasting effects. As a result of her experience one participant said, “I now think about my health and what I eat. I think about how I live my life and the effects and impressions I make on others. I think about the world and how I have a choice to be an active citizen. I think about what small things I can do to make a difference and I think about big ideas that could change the world.”